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Children's Death Result Of Government Failure

Children's Death Result Of Government Failure

Wednesday 12 Nov 2003 Dr Muriel Newman Press Releases -- Social Welfare

ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today expressed deep concern that the fundamental failure of proper social work practice by the Labour Government's agencies contributed to the deaths of Saliel Aplin and Olympia Jetson.

"The reports of the Children's Commissioner and the Chief Social Worker into the murder of the two girls, by their stepfather in December 2001, identify serious practice errors and flawed investigations as major contributors to this tragedy," Dr Newman said.

"In particular, the sending of a letter to the family home - alleging `new information' - which could have been intercepted by the violent and potentially abusive stepfather was considered to be `unsafe practice and unnecessary' and `the letter worded as it was, should not have been sent'.

"The Children's Commissioner and Chief Social Worker both acknowledge the difficulties in dealing with complex cases in a fragmented social work environment. They unanimously called for a more co-ordinated approach.

"These reports, on top of last week's damning baseline review, of the Department of Child, Youth and Family, must act as a catalyst for change. New Zealand should adopt a zero tolerance approach to child abuse, and the way we deal with child welfare must be changed.

"The Children's Commissioner's call for community-based child protection teams does not go far enough.

"Firstly, the police's role in investigating child abuse should be strengthened, and modelled on that of Australia. Their objective must be to establish whether a crime has taken place, and their focus must be on bringing perpetrators to justice. This would send a strong signal that society condemns child abusers and that damaging children will no longer be tolerated.

"Secondly, CYF should be rebuilt as a one-stop community-based family agency - with police, welfare, education and health professionals working as a team to reduce child abuse in the community. This would allow information sharing and co-ordination on a level simply not possible through standalone agencies.

"This more pro-active and holistic approach is needed to ensure that the Government's resources are there to help prevent child abuse, to bring abusers to justice, and to avoid terrible tragedies," Dr Newman said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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